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Adobe writes FreeHand obituary

Adobe Systems ends updates for the software, meaning no Vista or Intel Mac support, but offers Illustrator upgrade deal.

It should come as no surprise, but Adobe Systems has officially declared an end to development of FreeHand illustration software and is trying to coax users to its rival Illustrator package.

"After a long and storied career, Adobe (nee Altsys, Aldus and Macromedia) FreeHand has reached the end of its development road," John Nack, senior product manager of Adobe's Photoshop software, said on his blog on Wednesday. "Adobe does not plan to develop and deliver any new feature-based releases of FreeHand, or to deliver patches or updates for new operating systems or hardware."

That means, among other things, that there will be no version for Windows Vista or for Intel-based Apple computers, according to an Adobe frequently asked questions document (PDF) on the move.

Macromedia released the last version of the software, FreeHand MX, in 2003. The writing was on the wall for the product after Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005, given Adobe's preference for its own Illustrator product and Illustrator's integration with other software in Adobe's Creative Suite.

Adobe is trying to encourage upgrades to the CS3 version of Illustrator; registered users can pay $199, about a third of its regular $599 price tag.

Freehand has a long history, at least in personal computing terms. The first version was released in 1988, according to Ian Kelleigh's FreeHand Source Web site. It was a 429KB application that required 750KB of memory to run. The 11th version, MX, was a 10.3MB application that needed 131MB of memory.

Adobe is working to make the switch easier for FreeHand users. According to the FAQ, "Illustrator CS3 includes the new ability to import FreeHand 10 and MX files directly and with higher fidelity than in previous releases."

Adobe hasn't been racing to support Vista even for its latest products. However, the company on Monday announced work on a new driver to use PostScript printers with Microsoft's latest operating system. Adobe expects to ship the driver in July to printer manufacturers that can offer the software to customers.

Windows Vista includes a PostScript driver, but Adobe's "delivers higher quality print output for Office files with transparency and gradients than printing the same files using the standard PostScript driver bundled with Windows," Adobe said.